The Parish of Ovington and Itchen Stoke
These two small villages situated just under two miles west from the centre of New Alresford lie either side of the River Itchen, well known to anglers and surrounded by farm land and water meadows with pleasant walks, all within the South Downs National Park. The parish also includes outlying farmhouses known as Gander Down, Orr’s Meadow and Hampage Farm to the south and west plus Folly Farm and Abbotstone to the north.
Ovington has St Peter’s church, a 150 year old Victorian construction with flint walls and a distinctive oak bell tower with a spire. It is situated alongside the site of the original 13th century church of which the west arch remains. The spire was repaired and restored with oak shingles in 2020.
St Peter’s has pews with a capacity of a 100. A quiet Sunday will have a congregation of around 8 to 12. Christmas and Easter services have congregations of 45 to 55 including children. Weddings have been up to 120 and funerals with standing room only at 140.
We have a digital organ allowing the organist to be quite expansive. There is a set of four bells dating from 1860s, usually rung by the St John's bell ringers upon request, and by visiting bell ringers. Volunteers provide flowers, church cleaning and some churchyard maintenance. The church is normally kept open daily from morning to dusk (but only on Sundays during Covid Lockdown).
Itchen Stoke has St Mary’s church dating from 1866 built in the style of La Sainte Chapelle in Paris. However the church building of St Mary’s is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and kept open for visitors. The surrounding churchyard remains the responsibility of the current PCC. Two services a year are held by the Arle Valley Benefice by candle light only since this church has no electricity or water or toilet installation. The churchyard is open for burials for residents of Itchen Stoke only.
Not least because of the support of a retired priest and the Lay Ministers of the Benefice, St Peter’s has managed in the past two to three years or so to maintain an average of three services a month - one communion service, one or two Morning Praise or sung Mattins and Café Church.
Ovington Church first started hosting 'Café Church' five years ago and these services have now become part of the intrinsic nature of what we offer at St Peter’s.
We began with the intention of having them perhaps three times a year but we quite quickly went to holding them far more frequently; usually before lockdown it was every/every other month. It brings to the community a wonderful opportunity to enter the church to enjoy a coffee and a chat, before we then join together, very informally, to consider and discuss a theme or a word or an idea.
We have all found that this style of worship has brought about a considerable feeling of mutual respect as we learn from each other's experiences, and about each other's Faith. We are often challenged to reflect and contemplate on this, resulting in spiritual growth.
There seems to be an energy of true fellowship because we share and engage with each other in a way that isn’t possible with liturgy. This allows us to become vulnerable with each other and that therefore cultivates an intimacy, providing a deeper sense of community.
We also pray together, and sing when allowed to!
The Church is open for private prayer Sundays 10am - 2pm.
St. Peter's churchwarden is Pip Stevenson t. 01962 733055, email: email@example.com